Saturday Cup of Joe: a lending and tech(ish) newsletter

Friends & Colleagues,

SCOJ72. My September has been hectic. After meeting with other experts & attorneys at RESPRO in Denver last week, I spent a few days at home before heading to Mortgage Banker’s Assoc. Reg Compliance conference. Much of the discussion was about the future of the CFPB. In fact, I presented on the Dodd-Frank required 5 year review of the Ability-to-Repay/Qualified Mortgage (ATR/QM). Other than the loud drilling noise that started during my presentation in the hallway adjacent to our conference room, our panel went well and the work on the 5 year “look back” is just beginning. CFPB must complete the review prior to January 2019. Probably won’t be the last time we’re talking about it. Overall we had a productive visit to D.C. After that, 2 more trips — Vermont & Miami — and I’m home free. All before October 1st.

While the urge to agree to present and speak at panels & conferences is strong when the invitations come in months earlier, the reality of 4–5 in a month is akin to a consultant’s schedule (without the pay & perks). I’m learning these valuable lessons in managing & growing while executing on my day job.

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Weird fact I heard this week — according to GPS data, the Earth’s crust flexed 1–2 cm under the weight of all the water from Hurricane Harvey. Apparently this is not a catastrophe because it flexes back but speaks to the weight of the water across a relatively focused area. Incredible.

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Included this week:

· Of Interest — Detroit rises as a contender in the Amazon HQ2 proposal

· Next Belt — Detroit goes vertical

· Millennial Minute — Student debt delays the millennial American Dream

· Walk the Talk — New York finds cyber regs apply to credit bureau

· Valuable Lesson—Connecticut millennials weigh in on living in the state

· Quirky Story — the first new mapping technique in 100 years

· Today’s Thought, the Quote and bonus

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Belle Isle Park, Detroit, MI, USA

Of Interest: There have been a few developments on Detroit’s bid to win Amazon’s Headquarters2. News broke this week, somewhat prematurely, but nevertheless correct that Detroit and Windsor, Ontario would be the only international bid for an American city. You’ve probably heard that Toronto is high on the list as a global city and with tech worker-friendly immigration policy. Detroit has the rare opportunity to capitalize on an American location with easy access (2 bridges and a tunnel!) to Canada. Obviously there is much more to weigh here and Amazon’s team will be looking at everything from regional infrastructure to k-12 STEM education to access to world class talent. In Detroit, the transit is a blessing and a curse. A curse because public transportation here has always taken a back seat to automobiles, not surprisingly. A blessing because thanks to innovation at places like U of M and forced innovation at the Big 3 car companies. During the second week of October, Bedrock Real Estate, here in Detroit, will partner with May Mobility out of Ann Arbor and deploy an autonomous shuttle to cover one of our building-to-garage routes.

Even before that, The New York Times has already named Detroit one of the top 3 pedestrian cities in the U.S. Once you are in downtown Detroit, it’s a great & easy city to move around. It’s one of the many special things about Detroit that you have to experience in person to understand.

What’s the “narrative” this week? Detroit cannot offer the infrastructure & amenities of other cities. Business Insider ranked some of the top US cities. Identifying places like Denver, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Cincinnati which I would also consider top rivals. The author didn’t mention Detroit but did pepper the analysis with many of the features Detroit can offer. For instance, DTW is a superior airport to Denver & Pittsburgh and while have fewer global flight paths, I would argue is much more convenient and efficient than Atlanta. I noticed an article last week that also opened the possibility that Raleigh-Durham, NC has enough people and infrastructure to compete. I think that’s a compelling idea.

What’s the counter-narrative you ask? Snark. For some reason everyone can go around angling for their little piece of money & profit but as soon as it’s blatant and on the front page, it’s demeaning? The author of this link seems to think that no one should have to ask. Come on, man. You either gotta ask for the opportunity or put yourself in the position to make it happen for yourself. I believe that asking is faster but doesn’t change the outcome — it will happen. So why not ask?

What’s the counter-counter-narrative? Detroit Hustles Harder. Whether you call it “American Exceptionalism” or “Detroit Exceptionalism,” the point is that authenticity and hard work make the difference. Whether you are just trying to make every dollar last longer or build something of genuine quality, Detroit answers well.

What a perfect segue…

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Next Belt: Detroit’s “going vertical.” On Wednesday, Bedrock Detroit announced a $2.1 B investment in 4 buildings in downtown Detroit. Not just the tallest building in the city, but development of existing and historic buildings as well.

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New design on Woodward Ave., Downtown Detroit

& it’s a good value! Dollar goes farther in Detroit…maybe the farthest in the #NextBelt. Based on what’s happening in the city, it’s got to be one of the nation’s “best buy.”

Book Tower, Detroit, MI, USA

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Millennial Minute: National Association of Realtors (NAR), addressing the future of homeownership, looked at the role student loan debt plays in millennial homeownership rates. Homeownership is down, compared to previous generations, or so we’re told. Millennials are claiming to delay homeownership a minimum of 3 years, according to this report. Less certain is what the response should be. Yes, Fannie Mae is attempting to carve out student debt in certain calculations. Some credit scoring models even recalibrated the algorithm to account for student debt. I’ve always thought of student debt like the curve in Psychology 101. It’s all relative. Everyone has it and it washes out. Assuming the credit bureaus are still the source of credit worthiness in a few years, the levels of student debt among eligible loan applicants are going to be relatively equal or equally relative.

Another article this week shows how some additional, unfortunate economic trends start with student debt leading to the delay in homeownership as cited above but then compound by negatively impacting the ability for millennials to save for retirement. Overall, it paints a contracting and risky picture for the future. I’m not much for the doomsday stuff but I will say that we should talk about this now to try to solve when we can instead of waiting for it to become the next financial crisis.

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Walk the Talk: New York proposes a law to apply the Department of Financial Services (DFS) “first-in-the-nation” cybersecurity standards to credit bureaus. This announcement leads me to ask — HOW IS IT THEY WEREN’T COVERED BY THIS LAW TO BEGIN WITH? Like real estate agents & Dodd-Frank, somehow credit bureaus which house as much personally identifiable information as lenders may not have been required to maintain equal standards. Obviously any freedom from regulation Equifax, TransUnion and Experian have experienced is over thanks to the security breach Equifax experienced recently. Gov Cuomo is not the only one adding to the headlines. Sen Elizabeth Warren is working on legislation to regulate the credit bureaus while the attorney general of Warren’s home state Massachusetts, files a lawsuit against Equifax on behalf of her citizens. I wrote last week about the seemingly insane proposition that we still verify so much of the financial world on SSN. It would be interesting to see if a somewhat random data breach becomes the trigger to upend the credit score as the cornerstone of consumer credit risk assessments. It feels like the injury to the starter that allows the backup an opportunity to play only to discover the backup is a legend. Wally Pip & Lou Gehrig, Don Majkowski & Brett Farve, Drew Bledsoe & Tom Brady. Perhaps the injury here is the Equifax breach and the only thing we’re waiting to find out is who (or what solution) will become the legend.

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Valuable Lesson: People are not logical, we are biological. We make decisions based on emotion and rationalize them later. I’ve written before the way to reach millennials is through the story, framing the experience they’ll have with your product or service. No question there has to be data and the data has to make sense. But all the data in the world is not going to overcome something someone doesn’t want to do.

I was reminded of this again this week when my colleague & an attorney in Connecticut, Bill Weber (who I was lucky to spend some time with Friday in Vermont), forwarded a Hartford Courant article profiling 7 Millennials With Opinions on Living in Connecticut. The author, millennial Jesse Rifkin, has left CT but others in the op-ed have stayed. Each had their own, very specific, reasoning on the subject. Myself a millennial who recently (about 72 weeks ago) left Connecticut had an opinion as well. No surprise there.

The takeaways for me were 1). Each story is highly personal and fact specific as to what made a difference to these 7 people and 2). One reason that’s important is because CT lack’s a consistent message or narrative to help keep these people. In other words, Connecticut — “just give me a reason.” Tell a story. Any story. Compose some consistency across the state so that even if someone chooses to leave, they are leaving against the narrative rather than simply creating their own.

For instance, I don’t think the narrative/story has to be millennial specific. But the state needs a consistent narrative, a personality, to overcome the problem of losing population.

Connecticut does have a story to tell to retain millennials. Connecticut has four or five world class colleges & universities — Yale, Connecticut College, Trinity College, Weslyan and UConn — as well as many, many quality high schools as well. Connecticut produces highly educated people. Connecticut is next door to some cool stuff. I have no idea how Fairfax County, Virginia developed over time, but I get the sense that geographic proximity to D.C. & the Pentagon in Arlington County was the initial hook for developers who saw the potential for a massive economic area. Being next to NYC, Boston and Providence is legit. I bet it’s a similar experience as folks who travel between SF, Marin County, Pleasanton, Palo Alto & San Jose. Definitely not in miles but, perhaps, in time. Connecticut had corporate campuses that could likely become eco-friendly clusters for tech or new businesses.

When I lived in Connecticut, Gov Malloy suggested Connecticut could become the biotech capital of the world. I wholeheartedly agreed at the time expecting incentives, business development and campaigns to follow. None did. Seemingly, Malloy made the announcement followed by a single investment along the eastern shoreline. I never heard of it again. (I also never did research on the topic again, so I apologize in advance if I missed this development or additional growth here).

In many ways, economic development with a new generation of companies and employees works better in an urban environment. Millennials want easy access to the feeling that we’re a big deal. Do these people have any idea who we think we are?

Even though it works better in urban clusters, if you take a longer term view, it is possible create these types of places anywhere. Perhaps Raleigh-Durham would be analogous to Hartford. The people are there. The buildings are there. Hartford has a solid airport in Bradley, a major event space in the XL Center (is it still called the XL Center?), classic old buildings, a minor league baseball team and proximity to the retreats in the Berkshire Mountains or White Mountains and the shoreline along the Connecticut Sound or Atlantic through Rhode Island. The skeleton is there. What Hartford, and by extension Connecticut, lacks is a cohesive story. No consistent, sustained sales pitch.

The other difficult piece to this once you have identified an identity is coordinating expectations and markets around the theme. These things don’t happen organically. In most cases, a group of politicians and business leaders have to buy in participate in the effort.

For example, residential and commercial real estate in Hartford is bonkers. Hartford should be the cheap, easy place to live in and around Hartford. Places like West Hartford, Simsbury, and Avon can remain the expensive, comfortable suburbs. There’s no reason students, artists, chefs, and others need to live out in Farmington, Bristol, Windsor or wherever. Yet, it doesn’t seem easy to find a place or open a business in Hartford.

If I was writing the story of Connecticut, I would trust the location, educational foundation and desire of some percentage of the incoming population to be close to where they grew up, i.e. New England. I would tell a new story that includes a major economic component, the quality of life/history of a place component, and then describe the ideal lifestyle to future residents. In the parlance of our time — Make Connecticut Make Sense (Again).

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Quirky Story: A group of technologists decided to take on the mapping industry and understand if there’s a better way to map/grid the world. For instance, street numbers do not provide as much clarity to pinpoint location. What3Words turned the entire world into 3m x 3m squares and assigned each a unique word address. This way common words can be utilized to pinpoint very specific locations. What’s an example? I live at wants.zeal.foam. I work at teeth.think.hired.

Check out any address at: https://map.what3words.com/

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Today’s Thought: Meredith & I finally watched the movie La La Land this week. I say, finally, because it was a lock that we were gonna like it. Between Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone, dancing & the old style movie tricks of the golden age of Hollywood, it had someone for everyone in our relationship. What I did not expect was the direct focus on love versus career. In many ways it was even bigger than that because it combined love, career and happiness in the fundamental question — what am I supposed to do in life? And will it be worth it? Often love is seen as superseding or separate. Not so much here. Admittedly, it kinda speeds through some of those moments to leave time for the music and dancing making it more about the colors & sound than the plot. By the end, though, it is clear that answering those big questions is just as hard for the rich and famous as everyone else. The point is to make a decision one way or the other. Money creates freedom not happiness. Figuring out the right mix love, passion and commitment to your work/dream makes all the difference. Sidenote — I’m still trying to figure out how they filmed the traffic jam scene at the beginning. Was that an actual LA highway closed off for this shoot?

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Quote: “The greatest way to learn the genius of generosity is to practice it in real time with others.” — Chip Ingram

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Bonus Content: Forbes published a list of the 100 greatest living business minds. If you like lists or close up photos of billionaires, let me tell you. This is the link for you. The founder of QL, Dan Gilbert, was named to the list. Pretty amazing.

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Continued success,

Written by

Thinker, curious leader, once an attorney…always trying to answer well.

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